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George Read - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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Birth: September 18, 1733
Death: September 21, 1798 (age 65)
Colony: Delaware
Occupation: Lawyer, Politician
Significance: Signed The Declaration of Independence (at the age of 42); signed the United States Constitution (at the age of 53); served as the President of Delaware (1777-1778); served as United States Senator from Delaware (1789-1793); served as Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court (1793-1799); and Read was one of only six Founding Fathers to sign both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States

George Read Statue (right) in Signers' Hall at the National Constitution Center

George Read was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Originally born in Maryland, his family moved to Delaware while he was child. Read grew up and was educated in Delaware, and he then traveled to Philadelphia to study law. After passing the Pennsylvania Bar in 1753, Read moved back to Delaware, began his law practice and became involved in Delaware politics. In 1763, the Royal Governor of Pennsylvania, John Penn (the grandson of Pennsylvania founder William Penn), named Read as the Attorney General of Delaware. 

Despite his role in the Royal Colonial Government of Delaware, Read nonetheless sided with the Patriots during the lead up to the American Revolution. In 1774, Read was elected to the First Continental Congress and traveled to Philadelphia to meet at Carpenters' Hall. The following year, Read was appointed to the Second Continental Congress. At both the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress, Read butted heads with fellow Delawarean delegates, Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean who were strongly in favor of Independence. Read agreed that the actions of the British were unacceptable, but he viewed independence as an overreaction and a likely mistake. To those ends, Read sought compromise with the British at every turn. On July 2, 1776, Read voted against independence, though after independence passed, Read agreed to sign The Declaration of Independence to show unity with his fellow delegates. 

After signing The Declaration of Independence, Read returned to Delaware where he helped to craft the Delaware Constitution and was subsequently elected the President of Delaware, a role similar to the modern day Governor of Delaware. Read held the role of President of Delaware for less than one year before he was replaced by Caesar Rodney. After a few years in the Delaware Legislative Council, Read was named a member of the Constitutional Convention which met in the Summer of 1787. At the Constitutional Convention, Read helped to draft, debate and signed the United States Constitution. He is one of only six founders who signed both The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. 

After the U.S. Constitution went into effect, Read was elected to be one of the first two United States Senators from the state of Delaware. Read resigned as a U.S. Senator in 1793 to return to Delaware and serve as Chief Justice on the Delaware Supreme Court from 1793-1799. Read died two years later in 1795 at the age of 65.

George Read in Philadelphia

George Read first lived in Philadelphia as a young man when he studied to be a lawyer. Read later lived in Philadelphia in 1774 while a member of the First Continental Congress, and during this time, Read worked at Carpenter's Hall. Starting the following year in 1775, Read once again traveled to Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress which met at Independence Hall, where he signed The Declaration of Independence. 

Read worked again at Independence Hall when he helped draft the United States Constitution at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. While working on the Constitution, Read stayed in a boarding house operated by Mrs. Mary House, located at the corner of 5th and Market Streets. Read shared a room with fellow delegate John Dickinson due to a shortage of available rooms. From 1790-1793, Read again lived in Philadelphia when he served in the United States Senate representing Delaware, and he worked at Congress Hall.

Today, you can also see a statue of Read inside of the National Constitution Center in their Signers' Hall exhibit. A plaque commemorating Read for signing The Declaration of Independence can also be found on Signers' Walk on the 600 block of Chestnut Street. The National Constitution Center, Independence Hall, Signers' Walk, and Congress Hall are all visited on The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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